‘Ottawa’ Simons’ New Rideau Centre Location a Great Day Out
Even though it was still hot outside, the air had that familiar crispness that signals a change in seasons is just around the corner. Since we hadn’t caught up in a while, my friend Anna Przednowek and I thought there would be no better occasion to do so than while shopping for back to work clothes.
As the host of my own TV show, I’m always looking for threads that look good on-air, while for Anna, a PhD candidate and sessional instructor in the school of social work at Carleton University, September heralds going both back to school and work — and the need for a wardrobe that can fulfill dual roles.
As our mission is to look stylish, elegant and trendy, the opening of the long-awaited Simons store at the Rideau Centre was filled with particular promise.
An added bonus: being able to support a Canadian retailer, which at 100,000-square-feet of crisp white interiors, ornate architecture and unique clothing lines you won’t find anywhere else, is also the biggest store added to the shopping centre during its epic three-year, $360 million renovation. At 176 years of age, Simons is the oldest family-owned company in Canada, currently run by its fifth generation, brothers Peter and Richard Simons.
Walking into the new store — the latest of 13 in Canada — really felt like we had arrived someplace special, a juxtaposition of both modern and heritage elements. The two-storey space crowns the newly expanded wing of the mall at the corner of Rideau and Nicholas Streets and is flooded with natural light thanks to skylights and floor-to-ceiling windows.
The entire fourth floor is encased in glass, which wraps up and over to form part of the roof, while the third floor is housed in the reconstructed façade of the original Ogilvy department store, originally opened in Ottawa in 1907.
The first thing to catch our eyes when we walk into the escalator atrium is a 22-foot-tall, stunning red sculpture by Canadian artist Shayne Dark. After painstakingly gathering ironwood saplings from the forest floor near his Kingston home, he saturated them in a brilliant red pigment and then intertwined them to represent a contrast between urban and natural environments.
Along with other exhibits by six Ottawa artists, the overall effect is unlike anything we’ve ever seen before in a department store — and that’s exactly the look they were going for.
“There’s no direct return on investment on a piece of art, but many stores these days are cookie-cutter and we have tried to distinguish ourselves by holding onto this idea of original environments. People are fed up with the same old thing everywhere,” CEO Peter Simons tells me.
“We’re very focused on finding unique discovery brands from around the world — and we’re small enough to develop them within the organization. Our customers are really savvy in terms of putting together their own style across all brands and price points, mixing exclusive and high-end designer lines.
“We propose a palette, not just a look. It’s how people shop today and allows for truly unique expression of style.”
Of Simons’ eight private collections, Contemporaine seemed the most appealing to Anna and I, offering career and casual wear for the elegant, sophisticated, confident women that we aspire to be.
There’s nothing quite like being among the first to try on a new season’s collection of clothing when it hits the store. Perusing all the clothes hanging crisply from the racks is as fun as trying them on in the spacious fitting rooms.
We quickly realize that our biggest challenge is narrowing down our choices, as sizing is generous and price points are reasonable. A vibrant red v-neck dress is $99; a snazzy slim-fitting blazer with stylish touches of pleather is marked at $150; and a pair of impossibly comfy, svelte yoga jeans is priced at $138. All three find their way home with us, along with a couple dresses, jackets and a costume pearl and gold bracelet I love.
After the obligatory funky hat stop in the vast accessories section, admiring soft, plushy throws with whimsical designs of bicycling raccoons and a pouf ottoman with a pineapple print on it that I almost take home from Maison, the home décor department, it’s time for some sustenance.
Rounding out a spectacularly successful afternoon is a stop at Simons’ 12-seat Ève Café, where we dine on a refreshing strawberry salad, frothy cappuccinos and chocolate croissants while overlooking the city’s downtown through floor-to-ceiling windows.
“It is extremely rare for me,” confides Anna, “to find three outfits in one store that fit, look great and are affordable enough to buy all at once.”
With the new school year and the start of a new season only weeks away, we’ve never been more well-equipped for the fall — or more excited for summer holidays to come to an end.
Barbara Balfour’s makeup by MAC by Lauren McCarter
Anna Przednowek’s makeup by MAC by Stephanie Tirrell
Hair by stylist Thuy Miner
This story was created by Content Works, Postmedia’s commercial content division, on behalf of Simons.